We still live in the shadow of ancient Rome - a city at the heart of a vast empire that stretched from the North of England to Afghanistan, dominating the West for over 700 years. This fascinating history series, as seen on the BBC and presented by Professor Mary Beard, puts aside the stories of emperors and armies, guts and gore, to meet the real Romans living at the heart of it all.
In episode 1 Mary asks not what the Romans did for us, but what the empire did for Rome.
She rides the Via Appia, climbs up to the top seats of the Colosseum, takes a boat to Rome's port Ostia and takes us into the bowels of Monte Testaccio. She also meets some extraordinary Romans: Baricha, Zabda and Achiba, three prisoners of war who became Roman citizens; and Pupius Amicus, the purple dye seller making imperial dye from shellfish imported from Tunisia. This is Rome from the bottom up.
In episode 2, Mary descends into the city streets to discover the dirt, crime, sex and slum conditions in the world's first high-rise city. This Rome is not the marble Rome we know, but a vast, messy metropolis with little urban planning, where most Romans lived in high-rise apartment blocks with little space, light, or even sanitation. Forced outdoors into the city streets, she reveals where they went to hang out, get drunk, have sex and get clean.
In this final episode, Mary delves even deeper into ordinary Roman life by going behind the closed doors of their homes. She meets an extraordinary cast of characters - drunken housewives, teenage brides, bullied children and runaway slaves - and paints a more dynamic, lusty picture of Roman family life.
Finally, Mary paints a more nuanced picture of Roman slavery and asks why if it was such a brutal institution did many Romans choose to be buried with their servants - living cheek by jowl in death, as in life.